The wind has been relentless over the past few days, and that means leaves are starting to fall off the trees.
The strong wind, blowing through the trees starts to loosen the leaves until they can’t hold on any longer and fall to the ground. There are several ways to get rid of all those leaves, but some practices are better than others.
“We always try to encourage healthier options if possible”, says Christine Paulson, Senior Environmental Specialist for the Iowa DNR.
Whether you are bagging the leaves to send to a compost site, mulching to fertilize and control weeds, or composting for use in the garden, these are environmentally friendly options that don’t cost a lot of money. composting can also be a fun family activity.
“This is a great way to get the kids involved outdoors, and they can see everything from start to finish,” says Susan Johnson, Senior Environmental Specialist for the Iowa DNR.
For those that live in rural or unincorporated areas though, open burning tends to be one of the easiest ways of getting rid of waste, but it leads to more pollutants in the air and can cause heart and lung illness in children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions like asthma, COPD, or emphysema.
“The biggest concern is fine particles, primarily for most burning and we’re talking about particles that are very small like smaller than a human hair and these particles can actually bypass most of your defense, your respiratory defense systems,” said Paulson.
Note: The current drought and windy conditions also make burning a dangerous option as the flames can quickly get out of hand.
Christine says open burning can also emit carbon monoxide and other toxic air pollutants. Composting on the other hand, has a ton of environmental benefits, from adding nutrients to your soil, to balancing the ph and increasing the moisture retention, but there are a few things to remember if you’ll be composting your leaves this year.
“Waxy leaves kind of like the Magnolia leaves, you may want to leave out, they’re gonna take a long time to compost. Oak leaves tend to be a little bit acidic. So if you just have oak leaves you can still compost them, but your compost is just going to be a little bit acidic,” says Johnson.
For composting you’ll also want to remember the four to one method, four parts carbon source to one part nitrogen source. The carbon is in the leaves while the nitrogen can come from grass clippings and food waste. Also be sure to give your compost oxygen by mixing up the material a couple times a week.
For more tips on composting and open burning you can visit: Open Burning: https://www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Air-Quality/Open-Burning Composting: https://www.iowadnr.gov/About-DNR/DNR-News-Releases/ArticleID/383/Tutorial-Learn-How-to-Compost-at-Home